Linguistics Midterm 2012


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LINGUISTICS First Midterm Exam 2012
Institution: 9-011 IES del Atuel
Career: English Teacher Training Course
Teacher: Hector J. McQueen
Student: Cinthia A. Herrera

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Linguistics Midterm 2012

  1. 1. I.E.S Nº 9-011 “Del Atuel”.English Teaching Training Course.LinguisticsProf: McQueen HectorStudent: Herrera CinthiaLinguisticsFirst Midterm ExamInstitution: 9-011 IES del AtuelCareer: English Teacher Training CourseTeacher: Hector J. McQueenStudent: Cinthia A. HerreraSubmission deadline: 27th July, 2012
  2. 2. I.E.S Nº 9-011 “Del Atuel”.English Teaching Training Course.LinguisticsProf: McQueen HectorStudent: Herrera Cinthia2IntroductionWith the objective of presenting this work as the First Midterm Exam of Linguistics, ithas been carried out by a student attending third year of the English Teaching TrainingCourse, whose intention is to make this project serve as a tool for integrating theoreticalconcepts developed in class with everyday language.We, students, were assigned to choose any piece of written language so as to makeit the source of analysis out of which conclusions would be drawn. The lyrics of the song“Blaze of Glory” by Jon Bon Jovi was chosen as the object of analysis, and it served as afruitful resource for the exemplification and application of the theory intended to deepen.The way in which this piece of work has been designed is the following: the paperhas been divided into titles introducing the topic that will be dealt with. A brief theoreticalexplanation is given immediately after the title, and the following steps are the examplestaken from the song, each of them serving as a tool for comparison, analogy or mereexemplification. Whenever the example chosen is not clear enough, more than one modelhas been detailed.As said before, the aim of this work is to make it a tool for integrating theory with anactual piece of language.
  3. 3. I.E.S Nº 9-011 “Del Atuel”.English Teaching Training Course.LinguisticsProf: McQueen HectorStudent: Herrera CinthiaBLAZE OF GLORYI wake up in the morningAnd I raise my weary headI got an old coat for a pillowAnd the earth was last nights bedI dont know where Im goingOnly God knows where Ive beenIm a devil on the runA six gun loverA candle in the windWhen youre brought into this worldThey say youre born in sinWell at least they gave me somethingI didnt have to steal or have to winWell they tell me that Im wantedYeah Im a wanted manIm colt in your stableIm what Cain was to AbelMister catch me if you canChorousIm going down in a blaze of gloryTake me now but know the truthIm going down in a blaze of gloryLord I never drew first But I drew first bloodIm no ones sonCall me young gunYou ask about my consienceAnd I offer you my soulYou ask If Ill grow to be a wise manWell I ask if Ill grow oldYou ask me if I known loveAnd what its like to sing songs in the rainWell, Ive seen love comeAnd Ive seen it shot downIve seen it die in vainShot down in a blaze of gloryTake me now but know the truthCause Im going down in a blaze of gloryLord I never drew firstBut I drew first bloodIm the devils sonCall me young gunEach night I go to bedI pray the Lord my soul to keepNo I aint looking for forgivenessBut before Im six foot deepLord, I got to ask a favorAnd Ill hope youll understandCause Ive lived life to the fullestLet the boy die like a manStaring down the bulletLet me make my final standShot down in a blaze of gloryTake me now but know the truthCause Im going down in a blaze of gloryLord I never drew firstBut I drew first bloodIm the devils sonCall me young gunJon Bon Jovi
  4. 4. I.E.S Nº 9-011 “Del Atuel”.English Teaching Training Course.LinguisticsProf: McQueen HectorStudent: Herrera Cinthia4Analysis and Theoretical DevelopmentLinguistics has been defined as the scientific study of language. But what is language? Whatis it meant by scientific? Language, roughly defined, is the system of arbitrary signs used by acommunity as a code for communicative purposes. The scientific study of language means itsinvestigation by means of controlled and empirically verifiable observations and with reference tosome general theory of language-structure (Lyons 1968).In order to analyze any piece of language in use, we need first to have an idea of where thecurrent word or phrase comes from, what its history is, and how it came to mean what it meanstoday. Thus, we need to go back in time:Nature and ConventionTraditional Grammar goes back to Greece of the fifth century B.C., where Greekphilosophers debated whether language was governed by ‘nature’ or ‘convention’. This dispute wasmade to turn principally upon the question whether there was any necessary connection betweenthe meaning of a word and its form.The term ‘natural’ was to imply that how a thing was called has its origins in eternal andimmutable principles and was therefore inviolable. Naturalists maintained that all words werenaturally appropriate to the things they signified. Whereas ‘convention’ implied that it was merelyresult of custom and tradition. Conventionalists affirmed that there was some tacit agreement orsocial contract that the members of a community have established.Although how contradictory and at the same time complementary these thoughts might be,the dispute went on over the centuries and is still among us. There is no basis by which we canensure the type of connection between the meaning of the words “man” or “devil” and their forms. Itis inevitable to picture in our minds an image as soon as we come into contact with these linguisticsigns, but yet we cannot explain whether these words were naturally appropriate to the things theysignify or there was some tacit agreement or social contract among the members of a community.This question may be applied to any linguistic sign we wish to analyze.
  5. 5. I.E.S Nº 9-011 “Del Atuel”.English Teaching Training Course.LinguisticsProf: McQueen HectorStudent: Herrera Cinthia5Passages from the song:“Im the devils son”“Let the boy die like a man”Greek grammarIt is logical to think that language has evolved during the centuries, and that the structures orlexis that we know today might be different from previous structures, vocabulary uses or wordcategories.For example the common noun “morning”, the proper noun “Cain” or “Abel”, the adjectives“old” or “young”, the verb “steal”, the article “the” or the conjunction “but” owe their origin to one ofthe several ‘schools’ of Greek philosophy. It was the Stoics who gave the most attention tolanguage. Earlier members of the ‘school’ distinguished four parts of speech: nouns (common,proper, and inside nouns they classified adjectives; verbs, conjunctions, and articles.Passages from the song:“I wake up in the morning”“Im what Cain was to Abel”“I got an old coat for a pillow”“Call me young gun”“Take me now but know the truth”For the most part they were anomalists, insisting o the lack of correspondence betweenwords and things, and on the illogicalities of language. (The terms anomalists and analogists will beexplained and exemplified later on).The Alexandrian scholars carried further work of the Stoic grammarians. The Alexandriangrammarians were analogists; they searched for regularities of language. In addition to the fourparts of the speech developed by the Stoics, they recognized also the adverbs, the participles, thepronouns and the prepositions; exemplified in the chosen song by the words “never”, “known”, “you”and “down” respectively.
  6. 6. I.E.S Nº 9-011 “Del Atuel”.English Teaching Training Course.LinguisticsProf: McQueen HectorStudent: Herrera Cinthia6The Greek influence was supreme, as well as the influence of both the Alexandrian and theStoics.Analogists and AnomalistsThis new dispute grew up during the second century B.C. into how far language was‘regular’. The Greek words for regularity and irregularity are described in terms of ‘analogy’ and‘anomaly’. Therefore, analogists maintained that language was essentially systematic and regular,and those who took the contrary view were called anomalists.From the analogists viewpoint we can identify some examples extracted from the text fromwhich we can observe some regular patterns of language, such as the plural form “songs”, or theverb “lived”.From the anomalists view point we can observe examples like “gave”, or the word “foot”which requires an irregular inflection in its plural form: “feet”.Passages from the song:“And what its like to sing songs in the rain”Cause Ive lived life to the fullest”“Well at least they gave me something”“But before Im six foot deep”Another example of anomaly was afforded by the existence of homophones, i.e. two or morewords that are pronounced the same but differ in spelling, origin, and sometimes meaning. Such as“know” or “die”, that sound the same as “no” and “dye” respectively, and can only be differentiatedput in context.Passages from the song:“Take me now but know the truth”“Ive seen it die in vain”Design features of human languageAs regards the design features of human language, any word can be object of analysis butby means of being more specific some examples from the song have been chosen.
  7. 7. I.E.S Nº 9-011 “Del Atuel”.English Teaching Training Course.LinguisticsProf: McQueen HectorStudent: Herrera Cinthia7One of these characteristics of language is that of duality. Elements of human language haveno meaning in isolation, by themselves. Only these elements in combination with others formmeaningful units. For example the letters “v” – “a“ – “i” – “n” have no meaning in isolation but areable to form a meaningful unit in combination with each other: “vain”. The same happens withphonemes: /b/ /l/ /eɪ/ /z/ which are meaningless by themselves but become meaningful when theyenter into combination: /bleɪz/.Passages from the song:“Ive seen it die in vain”“Im going down in a blaze of glory”Another design feature of language is arbitrariness, to which I have already made referencepreviously when dealing with the terms nature and convention. All the same, it is worthy to clarifysome concepts as regards this topic. The term arbitrariness implies that the forms of linguistic signsbear no resemblance to their meaning, and that the link between ‘form’ and ‘meaning’ is a matter ofconvention. Thus, the linguistic sign “gun” might automatically represent something in our head, animage, a meaning that is connected to the form “gun”. The same occurs with any linguistic sign wewish to analyze, although some might be a bit more difficult to represent with an image, such as“truth” or “soul”. So, there is a tendency to say that linguistic signs are arbitrary due to the fact thatthe relationship between the meaning of something and its form is arbitrary.Passages from the song:“Call me young gun”“And I offer you my soul”Genetic Endowment and Generic AccomplishmentHuman language has developed the ability to go from actual occurrences to beyond theimmediate context. There is an inclination to abstraction and an ability to categorize reality andcontrol it. Human language, different from animal communication, is proactive as well as reactive,i.e. humans can create new meaning and shape their own reality as well as produce repertoiresbased on automatic responses.
  8. 8. I.E.S Nº 9-011 “Del Atuel”.English Teaching Training Course.LinguisticsProf: McQueen HectorStudent: Herrera Cinthia8There are different theories about the acquisition of language of which here I will developtwo:In the text analyzed, words like “soul” “conscience” and “blood” are mentioned, makingreference to the human body, and here is the connection I am trying to make: Genetic Endowmentis based on the principles of Noam Chomsky, who maintained that human beings are geneticallyprogrammed with a Language Acquisition Device (LAD) that provides a set of principles ofgrammatical organization for language production and for communication. These principles define anumber of general parameters of language, and they are species-specific, i.e. unique of humans.This principle is absolutely related to a biological point of view.Passages from the song:“Lord I never drew first But I drew first blood”“You ask about my conscience”“And I offer you my soul”On the other hand, words like “world” have been used in the song and may berepresentative of the opposite theory of Michael Halliday: Generic Accomplishment. This maintaineda social view of language and the relation to both cognition and communication of all human beingsof the world, in every different community. He sustained that the language acquisition process waspossible only by the use of language, and its accomplishment of the ideational, interpersonal, andtextual functions.Passages from the song:“When youre brought into this world”Immutability and MutabilityWhen we speak about linguistic signs, we speak about both immutability and mutability. First,they will be explained separately for a more accurate comprehension, and then their relationshipand interdependence will be mentioned.The signifier is fixed with respect to the linguistic community that uses it and the signifierchosen by a language cannot be replaced by other. An existent language cannot be modified fromone moment to the next. This is roughly when we speak about immutability of the linguistic sign.
  9. 9. I.E.S Nº 9-011 “Del Atuel”.English Teaching Training Course.LinguisticsProf: McQueen HectorStudent: Herrera Cinthia9On the other hand, mutability bares the notion of language changes throughout time, in spiteof the inability of speakers to change it individually. This principle of change is based on the principleof continuity, and that is why we speak of both mutability and immutability of the linguistic sign. It isimportant to make clear what is implied by ‘change’. Change means a shift in the relationshipbetween the signified and the signifier; change to which language is powerless to defend itselfagainst it. As a product of the social force of the community using it and time, language use andlinguistic signs will be dependent on the community of speakers and the time in which it isimmersed. Therefore, the phrase “a candle in the wind” might have implied in the past the idea ofjust a candle being blown up by the wind, and nowadays, an specifically in the song, represent a boywho is just trying to live and become somebody in life, but who feels totally weak and sensitive in theworld, just like the candle in the wind, by analogy.Passages from the song:Im a devil on the runA six gun lover“A candle in the wind”In case the previous example is not clear enough, before changing topic from mutability tosomething else, I will like to make reference to language evolution. The evolution of language isinevitable. Individuals, as I have said before, cannot control the linguistic sign, and the control oflanguage would be only possible if it is not in circulation. Where language is a property of everyonethat uses it every day, control is lost. Time changes all things and there is no reason why languageshould escape this universal law. Some clear examples of language evolution have been taken fromthe text to clarify this concept, such as “Yeah”, “I aint” and “I got” are current representations of“Yes”, “I am not” and “I have to” respectively. These examples clearly show how language changesnot only because of time, but also because of the community of language speakers.Passages from the song:“Yeah Im a wanted man”“No I aint looking for forgiveness”“Lord, I got to ask a favor”
  10. 10. I.E.S Nº 9-011 “Del Atuel”.English Teaching Training Course.LinguisticsProf: McQueen HectorStudent: Herrera Cinthia10Linguistic ValueThe characteristic role of language with respect to thought is to serve as a link betweenthought and sound, i.e. thought-sound implies division, and that language works out its units whiletaking shape between the two shapeless masses.Values remain entirely relative, and that is why the bond between the sound and the idea isradically arbitrary. The arbitrary nature of the sign explains why the social fact alone can create alinguistic system, thus, the community of speakers is necessary for values that owe their existenceto usage and general acceptance. Taking into account this, we may accept the idea that thelinguistic value given to a sing in a specific community might not be the same in other. The value ofjust any term is accordingly determined by its environment. Consequently, the value of “sin” inEnglish is not the same as “sin” in Spanish. For the former language “sin” means an immoral actconsidered being a transgression to a divine law, and for the latter it means “without”. In this way,depending on the community of speakers is the value that will be given to the linguistic sign, withoutliving aside the signification itself of the word.If we wish to speak about words, we say that its content is really established only by theoccurrence of everything that exists outside it. Being part of a system, it is endowed not only with asignification but also and especially with a value. In this manner, in English the word “earth” appearsto have a slight difference with “ground” or “floor”, whereas only one word is used in Spanish forthe three of them: “piso”. In this way, “earth”, “ground” or “floor” might have the same significationas Spanish “piso” but NOT the same value.Passages from the song:“They say youre born in sin”“And the earth was last nights bed”Modern linguistics – Ferdinand de Saussure – Langue and ParoleSaussure made the distinction between the French terms ‘langue’ and ‘parole’ (in Englishterms ‘language’ and ‘speaking’ respectively), intended to eliminate an ambiguity of the use of theword ‘language’. When we say of someone that ‘speaks English’, we do not imply that he is actually‘speaking English’. The same happens the other way around. Let’s take the song “Blaze of Glory”as example: if we hear somebody, of any nationality, singing the song, we can say that he or she is
  11. 11. I.E.S Nº 9-011 “Del Atuel”.English Teaching Training Course.LinguisticsProf: McQueen HectorStudent: Herrera Cinthia11‘speaking English’ (parole) but it does not necessarily imply that this person ‘speaks English’(langue) or is speaker of the English language. Let’s say that all those who ‘speak English’ share aparticular ‘langue’ and the set of utterances which they produce when they are ‘speaking English’constitute what is called ‘parole’.The relationship between langue and parole is very complex and somewhat controversial.Thus we need to establish their difference in concept as clearly as possible:Language (langue) is social and essential. It is a product that is passively assimilated by theindividual. It is the sum of impressions deposited in the brain of each member of the community. Itexists in every individual and it is common to all, forming a collective pattern.Speaking (parole) is individual and accessory. It is the combination by which the speakeruses the language code for expressing his own thoughts. It is the psychological mechanism thatallows the speaker to produce utterances. It is not a collective instrument, thus its manifestations areindividual and momentary.All in all, we may say that the singer and author of this song ‘speaks English’ although it doesnot mean that he is actually ‘speaking English’ in this moment. And at the same time, a person whois singing the song can be considered as ‘speaking English’ but it does not necessarily means thathe or she ‘speaks English’; he or she is just producing utterances in that language.
  12. 12. I.E.S Nº 9-011 “Del Atuel”.English Teaching Training Course.LinguisticsProf: McQueen HectorStudent: Herrera Cinthia12Bibliography LYONS 1968 (1995): Introduction to Theoretical Linguistics. Chapter 1 WIDDOWSON 1996: Linguistics. Chapter 1 SAUSSURE de (1959): Course in General Linguistics. New York: ThePhilosophical Library, Inc.- Introduction:- Chapter III: The Object of Linguistics.- Chapter IV: Linguistics of Language and Linguistics of Speaking.- Part 1: General Principles- Chapter I: Nature of the Linguistic Sign.- Chapter II: Immutability and Mutability of the Linguistic Sign.- Chapter IV: Linguistic Value.